Potatoes…what’s not to like…
A couple of weeks ago the World Potato Congress was held in Dublin hosted by the Irish Potato Federation. It was the first to be held in Ireland, despite our long, complicated and tragic relationship with the potato.
The startling news from the congress was the Irish government report that there had been a 25% drop in the consumption of potatoes in Ireland over the past 10 years. I’m saddened but not surprised…
It is of course, partly due to the growing popularity of other foods, pasta, grains, rice, couscous and the perception that potatoes are fattening.
However, good to remember that potatoes are, to quote a much-overused word, a Super Food, super nutritious, and super versatile. My personal veggie hero, definitely a desert island staple.
Don’t we all know that the humble spud can be cooked in a million different ways – boiled, sautéed, roast, steamed, fried, layered up in gratin, added to stews, tagines, casseroles…They can be dressed up or down, used to spin out other dishes. An intrinsic part of vegetarian and vegan diets…full of goodness.
However not all potatoes are flavour packed so when you find varieties like Home Guard, British Queen, Sharp’s Express or Charlotte, snap them up.
They are all ‘earlies’ and so delicious that you just want to boil and eat them with lots of good butter and flaky sea salt…one of the highlights of the year for me is digging the first new potatoes and making a wish that we’ll all be as well this time next year.
Here on the farm at the cookery school, we grow a small quantity of organic blight resistant varieties including Premier, Solist, Alouette, Carolus, Agri and Vitabella.
Nonetheless, the perception that potatoes are a diet disrupter,a fiddle to prepare and take much longer to cook doesn’t help their popularity. I personally prefer to buy freshly dug potatoes and give them a quick scrub. Strange as it may seem, they will have much more flavour and keep better.
A few little tips.
For maximum flavour, boil them in their jackets, add plenty of salt to the water- this really soups up the taste…Sea water is even better.
Resist the temptation to soak them. Instead, if you want to get ahead for Roasties, (peel, save the peel to make the potato skin crisps). Dry them well, toss in extra virgin oil, pop them into a bag in the fridge till needed. They won’t discolour and will keep their flavour, roasties are even better when cooked in duck fat, dripping or lard but I also love smashed potatoes, all crusty on the outside and squishy inside.
Great for a barbeque too.
I am also loving this potato crisp frittata, based on a recipe from Home Cooking with Ferran Adriá. I have added some parsley and a little tarragon but the original without herbs is also delicious(annual marjoram would also be a tasty substitute).
We also love crispy potatoes with labneh and fresh herbs or just wedges with Aioli, a delicious and satisfying way to get kids to eat potatoes. A filling, wholesome, super chic- supper for just a few cents.
After all that, tell me what’s not to like about potatoes but do go out of your way to find organic or chemical free tubers, otherwise they may have been sprayed multiple times, and have had a dose of glyphosate as a desiccant just before harvesting…
Seek out a local grower on NeighbourFood or buy directly from
a Farmers Market stall.
Potato Crisp Tortilla
You’re all going to love this simple tortilla. Of course it’s delicious warm but also brilliant picnic food or for school or office lunch. Serve little bites to nibble with drinks.
6 large eggs
75g (3oz) potato crisps
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, for serving
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon tarragon, chopped (or annual marjoram)
1 x 15cm (6 inch) pan
Whisk the egg really well. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper and the chopped herbs.
Heat the pan over a medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and swirl around the pan. Add the potato crisps, toss and allow to soak for a minute or two. Pour in the egg mixture, loosen around the edge and allow to cook gently for 4-6 minutes.
Cover with a lid or an upside-down plate. Gently flip the tortilla onto the plate. Add another tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to the pan, then slide the tortilla back into the pan, uncooked side downwards. Continue to cook over the medium heat for 2 minutes, then slide the tortilla onto a warm plate and serve with a salad of organic leaves – delicious.
Good to know…double the quantity of ingredients and use a 25cm (10 inch) pan to serve 6 or 8 hungry guests.
Crispy Potatoes with Labneh and Soft Herbs
Another chic way to use up boiled potato. The combination of crispy potato, soft creamy labneh and fresh herbs is mind blowing…yet inexpensive.
900g (2lb) cooked boiled potatoes
450g (1lb) soft labneh (dripped natural yoghurt)
150ml (5fl oz) softly whipped cream
fresh herbs – sprigs of chervil, tarragon, flat parsley and chives
Peel and cut the potato into approximately 2.5cm (1 inch) square chunks.
Heat oil or beef dripping in a deep-fry to 200°C – cook the potatoes in batches until really crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper.
Fold the cream into the labneh and loosen with a few tablespoons of whey if too thick. It should be the consistency of softly whipped cream.
Serve the crisp potatoes immediately in wide bowls with a few dollops of labneh and a generous handful of soft fresh herb sprigs on top.
Note: New Potatoes do not need to be peeled
Potato Wedges with many riffs
These are my grandchildren’s favourite kind of roasties. They particularly love all the crusty skin and enjoy dipping them.
6 large preferably ‘old’ potatoes e.g. Golden Wonder or Kerr’s Pinks
olive oil or beef dripping (unless for vegetarians)-duck or goose fat are also delicious
Preheat the oven to 230˚C/450˚F/Gas Mark 8.
Scrub the potatoes well, cut into quarters lengthways or cut into thick rounds 2cm (3/4 inch) approx. Put into a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil and toss so they are barely coated with olive oil. Roast in a preheated oven for 30-45 minutes depending on size.
Sprinkle with sea salt and serve in a hot terracotta dish.
Cheesy Potato Wedges
When almost cooked, sprinkle 110-175g (4-6oz) grated Cheddar cheese or a mixture of Cheddar, Parmesan and Gruyère generously over the potatoes. Pop back into the hot oven or under a hot grill for 5 to 6 minutes until the cheese has melted. Serve ASAP.
Rustic Roasties with Aioli (Garlic Mayo)
Add 2-3 crushed cloves of garlic and 2-3 teaspoons of chopped flat-leaf parsley to 225g (8oz) of homemade mayonnaise and season to taste and serve as a dip with freshly cooked wedges.
Potato Wedges with Sweet Chilli Sauce and Sour Cream
When the roasties are crisp and golden. Drain on absorbent kitchen paper. Season with flaky sea salt.
Serve immediately in a deep bowl with a little bowl of sweet chilli sauce and sour cream on each plate.
Toby’s Smashed Potatoes
My son Toby also cooks these on the BBQ, the contrast of crisp edges and soft centre is irresistible. Great as a side but also pretty irresistible to munch on as a snack. Best made with freshly cooked potatoes but a brilliant way to revitalise leftover boiled potatoes. I sometimes sprinkle the crunchy smashed potatoes with chopped chives and a grating of Parmesan or Coolea cheese.
small to medium sized potatoes
extra virgin olive oil
flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Optional – freshly chopped rosemary, thyme, smoked paprika, cumin, coriander…
Boil the freshly scrubbed potato in well salted boiling water until almost fully cooked.
Drain, allow to dry off for a couple of minutes.
Preheat the oven to 230˚C/450˚F/Gas Mark 8.
Brush a roasting tin or baking sheet with extra virgin olive oil. Distribute the potatoes evenly in a single layer over the base. Use a potato masher or a fork to crush each one to a height of about 1cm (1/2 inch) – we’re not talking neat, the more knobbly, the better.
Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. They’ll be delicious roasted until golden, 20-25 minutes but of course one can also sprinkle with finely chopped rosemary, thyme leaves, smoked paprika, a few chilli flakes, freshly ground cumin or coriander…
Sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt and serve.